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Benedetto Luti | Christ and the Woman of Samaria, 1715-1720

Artist: Benedetto Luti⏩ (Italian, Florence 1666–1724 Rome)
Date: 1715-20
Medium: Oil on copper
Dimensions: 15 × 12 1/8 in. (38.2 × 30.9 cm)
Classification: Paintings
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, by exchange, 2015
Accession Number: 2015.645
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 623

This elegant painting on copper depicts a scene from John 4:4–26. Christ engages with a woman who has come to draw water from a well outside of the city of Sychar in Samaria. In the ensuing exchange, the woman recognizes Christ as a prophet and returns to her people to proselytize. Luti has eliminated the anecdotal details of John’s account and pared down the narrative to the two key figures in this exchange. Christ’s teachings, supported by the weighty column behind him, draw the woman’s attention. Her receptiveness to his arguments is emphasized by the receptacle she embraces.

Dating to around 1715-20, this painting on copper is an especially fine example of the classicism that defines Luti’s later work. Centered around the well, its gracefully calibrated composition is complemented by a luminous and subtly modulating palate of soft but saturated colors. Luti balances an acute sensitivity to carefully observed detail, such as the undulating lip of the metal vessel containing the reflecting water at the foot of the well or the rhythmically twisting rope above it, with the soft atmospheric effects in the characteristically Roman vista at the left and the lush grove of trees in the upper right of the painting.

Olszewski (2004) associated the copper with one mentioned in the 1743 Ottoboni inventory ("Altro in rame di mezza testa rappresentante la Sammaritana al pozzo originale di Benedetto Luti: 320."). Assuming that this painting is the one mentioned there, it is one of at least four coppers that belonged to Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni, grandnephew of Pope Alexander VIII and one of the Rome’s greatest patrons of the arts.
Although small copper paintings were often found in seventeenth-century collectors cabinets or were made for precious devotional use, the function of Luti’s small paintings on this support is unclear. Maffeis (2012) suggests that they might have served as presentation pieces for important patrons, citing the example of the Holy Family the artist sent to Pommersfelden as a gift to gain favor with the Archbishop-Elector of Mainz.
Indeed, Luti produced a number of highly finished compositions such as this that relate directly to larger works on canvas. The postmortem inventory of the artist’s studio mentions an unfinished canvas of the Woman of Samaria at the Well in a gold frame.
("Un quadro in tela rappresentante la Samaritana al pozzo originale del Cavalier Luti non finiito con sua cornice dorata". See M. Guerrieri Borsoi, "La collezione di Benedetto Luti", in E. Debenedetti, Collezionisti, disegnatori e teorici dal Barocco al Neoclassico, vol. 1 ("Studi sul Settecento Romano", 25), Rome, 2009, p. 100.)
The date of this copper toward the end of the artist’s career makes the connection between the two works plausible.
The expensive gilded frame suggests that the unfinished canvas was a paid commission that was never delivered.

Although there are elements in the landscape, in the positioning of figures, and elsewhere that indicate that Luti developed and refined the composition while executing this painting, the exceptional level of finish make it clear that it was not a preparatory study but a finished work of exceptional refinement, meant to be admired independently. | Stephan Wolohojian © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Titolo: Cristo e la donna di Samaria
Artista: Benedetto Luti⏩ (Pittore Italiano⏩, Firenze 1666-1724 Roma)
Data: 1715-20
Materiali: olio su rame
Dimensioni: 15 × 12 1/8 poll. (38.2 × 30.9 cm)
Ubicazione attuale: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
L'immagine mostra Cristo in una conversazione con una donna samaritana (Giovanni 4: 1-28), che significa il messaggio universale del ministero di Gesù. Il suo soggetto si riferisce a quello di una tela più grande elencata in un inventario preso dopo la morte dell'artista.
Tuttavia, l'elevato livello di finitura e di dettaglio della superficie e l'uso di un costoso supporto in rame rendono improbabile che l'artista lo abbia fatto solo come studio preparatorio.
Luti godeva di una reputazione eccezionale a Roma e questo dipinto potrebbe appartenere al cardinale Pietro Ottoboni (1667-1740), uno dei più importanti mecenati e collezionisti del tempo.